Investigators at collaborating academic and medical institutions in Washington, DC, researched the use of distance communication technologies to deliver anomia therapy to persons with primary progressive aphasia. Their goal was to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of such telemedicine-based service delivery with this clinical population.

The study included two types of word-level therapy—a phonological treatment involving single-word audition and utterance, and an orthographic treatment involving single-word reading and writing. The custom-assembled telerehabilitation therapy platform comprised a laptop computer with internal webcam, an echo-cancellation microphone/speaker, and an electronic signature pad for written input.

This treatment study focused on three subjects, one for each of the three PPA subtypes (agrammatic, logopenic, semantic). Each subject received treatments focusing on lexicon ‘prophylaxis’ (retention of uncompromised words) and lexicon ‘remediation’ (recovery of compromised words). A within-subject approach was employed to compare post-intervention against pre-intervention performance. For comparability, larger groups of similar patient types were treated and assessed, face-to-face, with the same regimens.

All three teletherapy subjects showed naming maintenance of items treated under both phonological and orthographic treatment regimens; additionally, the subject with semantic variant PPA showed increased naming following phonological remediation therapy. Moreover, each of the subjects performed comparably to their cohort receiving therapies face-to-face.

This investigation shows that anomia teletherapies are deliverable to persons with PPA, with benefits in all varieties of PPA, and outcomes that are comparable to those documented following analogous face-to-face treatment. As the authors indicate, this represents an initial study of modest scope; to flesh out our understandings, follow-on studies with more subjects and complementary study designs are required. It is acknowledged that PPA is a challenging medical condition. This work suggests possibilities for future clinical management.

For further reading: A. M. Meyer, H. R. Getz, D. M. Brennen et al., 2016.  Telerehabilitation of anomia in primary progressive aphasia. Aphasiology, 30(4):483–507.

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